A history of the National Association of Jazz Educators and a description of its role in American music education, 1968-1978



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Beginning in the late fifties, a few music educators began to clamor for a greater infusion of jazz and popular music into the curriculum of American education. Their rationale was based on the assumption that since jazz/popular music was an integral part of American culture, it was educationally valid for students at all grade levels. By the middle sixties, informal discussions were being held concerning the formation of an organization of jazz and popular music educators. The following individuals were actively involved in these early planning sessions: Matthew Betton, Clement DeRosa, Morris Hall, Donald Joseph, Stan Kenton, William Lee, John Roberts, and Jack Wheaton. Following the Tanglewood Symposium of mid-1967, the afore-mentioned group met in Chicago, Illinois with Louis Wersen, then president of the Music Educators National Conference. MENC was the national representative of 64,000 American music educators and Wersen invited the fledgling group of jazz/popular music educators to join the National Conference. On March 19, 1968 in Seattle, Washington, the newly-created National Association of Jazz Educators presented its Constitution and Bylaws to the MENC Executive Board and was promptly accepted as a member of the parent organization. Since its formation, NAJE has grown to represent 4,400 jazz and popular music educators in a range of instructional levels from kindergarten through college. As a result, jazz and popular music have achieved an academic respectability and a gradually increasing acceptance into the mainstream of American music education. This study provides a history of the National Association of Jazz Educators (1968-1978); a description of NAJE1s role in American music education; and a description and summarization of NAJE's progress toward the attainment of its stated goals and objectives. Since the founding of the association, its role in American music education has been to act as a catalyst for the promotion of jazz and popular music curricula in schools and colleges. The educational activities of NAJE have been most visible in four areas: a majority of NAJE officials at the state, regional, and national levels have been active as jazz educators and/or administrators in elementary, secondary, and higher education; the total number of American institutions of higher learning which offer jazz and popular music curricula grew from 135 in 1969 to 440 in 1974; the growth of America's student jazz ensembles increased from 15,000 in 1970 to over 30,000 in 1978; and annual big-band jazz festivals for high school and college musicians expanded from 175 in 1973 to 15,000 in 1978. The sevenfold purpose of NAJE1 has come increasingly closer to attainment in the late seventies because of two primary factors: the gradual growth in the total of specific areas of jazz/popular music education which were aided by NAJE and the major educational projects of the association during its first five presidencies. Due to the recency of these NAJE administrations, it is premature to accurately assess their educational endeavors. The primary purpose of NAJE ostensibly has been to promote the understanding, appreciation, and performance of jazz and popular music. Since its 1973 change in organizational status with MENC, however, NAJE has become a de facto jazz educators association and has overemphasized performing curricula such as large jazz ensembles. On the other hand, MENC has continued to promote all styles of both jazz and popular music through performing and nonperforming curricula. It is recommended that NAJE strike the term "popular music" from its Constitution and continue its proven effective role as leader of jazz education in America. In addition, it is recommended that NAJE should stress the development of small ensemble and improvisational techniques, as well as nonperforming jazz curricula.